Monday, April 29, 2019

Hugo von Hofmannstal

Hugo von Hofmannstal (1874—1929) is an Austrian poet, playwright and librettist. When he was just 16, he began publishing remarkably advanced poetry, and became well-connected within Vienna’s literary community.

In 1911 he wrote his adaptation of the 15th century English morality play Everyman, which later became (and still is) a regular feature of the Salzburg Festival. George Sterling says, Hofmannstal “vivified and humanized” the play, adding powerfully to “the dramatic and emotional elements”.

He also worked with Richard Strauss, being the librettist for several of his operas including Elektra (1909) and Arabella (1933). During WWI he held a government post, but the end of the war also marked the end of the monarchy to which he had been dedicated. His latter plays increasingly reflect his Christian faith.

The following are the first lines spoken by God in Everyman, translated by George Sterling and Richard Ordynski.

From Everyman

O men! vile men! how long shall I endure
The hardness of your hearts? Forgetting Me,
Dreading Me not, ye live the lives of beasts.
Basely sin-soaked, blind to My light and law.
And know Me not your God. The world alone
Enthralls you. Heavenly things beget your scorn.
The bond between My majesty and you
Ye have forgotten that I gave My blood.
Dying upon the Tree that men might live,
That I was nailed upon a martyr's cross,
That cruel thorns were woven for my crown,
That I gave all to you. Now all my laws
Ye break. But swiftly shall my judgment come
On sinful man. Unerring messenger!
Stand forth! I have a journey for thee, Death.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.